Loving wife and mother RIley North (Jennifer Garner) watches in horror when she sees her husband (Jeff Hephner) and daughter (Cailey Fleming) gunned down by members of a drug cartel on her daughter’s birthday. After a failed attempt to bring the thugs to justice, Riley disappears. Five years later, members of the cartel start dying and it seems Riley North has transformed into an avenging angel and revenge is exactly what she is back for!
Film is directed very by-the-numbers by Pierre Morel from an extremely lazy script by Chad St. John. Lazy because the most important aspects of the story, such as Riley’s transformation from mom to vigilante and even the killing of the three men actually responsible for her husband and daughter’s deaths, occur off-screen. We jump five years after the ineffective trial to RIley’s war on the cartel in midstream. All we get is some FBI babble about her spending time in Europe and Asia and being a cage fighter to a gun store theft with Riley taking some very specific weaponry. Riley is now wiping out cartel members like a widowed Rambo and becoming a folk hero on the mean streets in the process. Where did she acquire her arms training? Her knowledge of guns and ammo? She’s outmaneuvering and mowing down men who have spent their entire lives with guns and in gangs. When we last saw Riley she was a banker. What really happened to her in those five years aside from what little we are told? That’s what’s important to give the story some needed substance, but St. John’s script gives us scraps and more clichés than Riley delivers bullets. Even an 80s style training montage would have supplied more information. At least Garner is very effective as Riley and it’s too bad her soulful anti-heroine isn’t in a much better movie that the actress’ work deserves.
Movie is based on the book by John Bellairs and tells of young Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro), whose parents have recently been killed in a car accident. He’s sent to live with his eccentric uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) in a creepy old house and soon finds out Jonathan is a warlock. Lewis also discovers that there is a clock in the walls of the house and one that may have a sinister purpose. Can Lewis, his uncle and their witch of a neighbor Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) find out the clock’s true purpose and stop it from whatever evil it’s intended for?
Film is directed with surprising restraint by Eli Roth (Hostel, The Green Inferno), who is most known for his over-the-top gore flicks, though it could have used a bit of those flicks’ bombasity. The script is by Eric Kripke based on Bellairs’ book and while the cast give it their all, there is just something lacking from the proceedings. The film is slower paced than Roth’s usual fare and never really ignites the spark needed to make the film more fun. There is plenty of magic and the supernatural on hand and some very spooky imagery, but the film lacks a strong sense of charm or wonder. It’s a decent enough watch and you can tell Black and Blanchett especially are having a good time with the material, but the movie itself never really takes off running as the popcorn entertainment it’s intended to be. Even the last act confrontation with Kyle MacLachlan’s re-animated warlock villain never reaches the excitement, or suspense, level it needs. Overall, Eli Roth shows he can direct with some restraint, but maybe it’s not that good an idea here, as the film is a bit too laid back to entertain more than just moderately.
Comic book based flick finds intrepid reporter Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) investigating the Life Foundation and it’s CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who unbeknownst to Eddie has just retrieved some symbiotic organisms from space. Eddie gets infected by one of those organisms when sneaking into the foundation headquarters and now he and the alien creature become one as the anti-hero Venom! Can they stop Drake, who has acquired his own sinister symbiote and plans to help them invade the Earth?
Film is directed well enough by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland), but from a mess of a script by Jeff Pinker, Scott Rosenberg and Kelly Marcel. What story there is, is all over the place and the tone of the film goes back and forth from serious Sci-fi thriller to absurd comedy, sometimes in the same scene. Hardy can be a hoot at times, though, with an eccentric performance and the relationship between he and Venom can be amusing. There are a few decent action sequences, but the human villains are boring and Venom and his adversary Riot are obvious cheesy CGI creations and have no real weight or presence. Overall it’s a silly film, with sub-standard SPFX and is possibly the worst Marvel flick since the equally messy and tonally challenged Iron Man 3. You’d think with the success of the R-rated Deadpool, they’d have gone for something a lot edgier considering the subject matter.
A schizophrenic and forgettable first solo venture for the Spider-Man villain turned anti-hero, though box office returns will probably earn it the sequel the mid-credits scene sets up. Also stars Michelle Williams as Brock’s long suffering girlfriend Anne and a cameo from Woody Harrelson as a familiar face from the Venom comics.
MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse wishes everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! OK, so there aren’t a lot of horror films set on Turkey Day, but here’s a few, even if they aren’t all classics. Grindhouse for the obvious reason of enjoying Eli Roth’s legendary faux trailer and Galaxy of Terroris a personal addition because I saw it on Thanksgiving night, 11/26/1981 at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. Gobble, gobble!
Film takes place ten years after a small Kentucky town was plagued by a series of murders by a serial killer known as The Clovehitch Killer. The killings mysteriously stopped with the killer never found. When young Tyler (Charlie Plummer) finds a disturbing photo in his father’s truck, he starts to question things about his churching-going, Boy Scout master father (Dylan McDermott). The more Tyler seeks answers, the more he starts to suspect his father and The Clovehitch Killer might be one and the same.
Written by Christopher Ford and directed by Duncan Skiles, this is a methodically paced thriller that evokes similar films like the recent Summer of 84 and the classic Frailty. Whether his father is really a killer or not, isn’t the true mystery here, but what a boy will do when he finds out disturbing things about his own flesh and blood. The film is well done and the performances are excellent and it has a nice replay of events from another POV that works well in the last act. What holds this thriller back is that it lacks a real punch. It’s a bit too understated for it’s own good and since we all know where it is heading, it needed more punctuation at the time of it’s reveals. It’s a well-made thriller about what darkness can lurk beneath the All-American veneer, but one that needed a bit more of a “wow” factor to really be something worth talking more about. As it is, it is still an unsettling thriller about what one might be faced with when learning dark things about someone they love. Also stars Samantha Mathis as Tyler’s mother and Madisen Beaty, who impresses, as a girl who befriends Tyler and with a personal interest in Clovehitch’s identity.
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Cam is an interesting and sometimes unsettling thriller about pretty Alice (Madeline Brewer), who unbeknownst to her mother, works as a web cam model known as “Lola”. Alice is struggling to get her sexy/playful online show up in the ratings, and is just happy to break the top fifty. One morning she awakens to find that her account has been stolen and her web show is now being run by a woman who looks like her exact duplicate. Not only is having her identity and livelihood stolen away from her driving her crazy, but this new “Lola” is rising in the ratings faster than Alice ever could. Now the desperate young woman goes on a hunt to find out who…or what…has taken over her cyberspace.
Effectively directed by Daniel Goldhaber, from a script and story by he, Isa Mazzei and Isabelle Link-Levy, this is a movie that delves into a few cyber subjects while telling it’s tale of a woman whose alter-ego is stolen away from her. Aside from identity theft, it covers the world of sexy web shows and chat rooms, internet celebrities, the lengths folks go to become famous on the web, cyber relationships, as well as, cyber stalking turning into real stalking as one of “Lola’s” online followers “Tinker” finds her in real life. The film has a slightly playful nature at first, than gets a bit creepy as we watch Alice’s online world and identity taken away. She goes on a quest to find this impostor, but along the way we learn a lot about this online alternate reality and how it becomes the only reality for some. We also see the damage caused when the impostor’s antics out Alice to the real world and the negative impact it has on her and her family. It all leads to a cyber showdown with Alice trying to turn the tables on Lola V2, which is tense and unsettling. It’s an off-beat and clever little movie that can be quite disturbing at times and in more ways than one. Are we heading towards a fantasy world that exists totally online? Cam might give some cyber food for thought on that, as it’s conclusion is no surprise and that’s on purpose. It’s making a point and making us think. There may be some unanswered questions, too, by the time it’s over, but in this case, the cause is not the focus but the effect. Besides, if you pay attention to what some of the characters are saying and a few things that occur, you can probably fill in the blanks on your own.
As for the cast, this is Madeline Brewer’s show and she gives a lively and strong performance as Alice, her alter-ego Lola and the impostor Lola. She’s a perky and slightly eccentric young woman as Alice, playful and sexy as Lola and gives Lola V2 something a bit off as the impostor escalates the sexy hi-jinx, yet, we feel there is something not quite right about her. Very good work by an actress that has to carry pretty much the whole movie on her shoulders. In support there is Love Witch’s Samantha Robinson as an online rival, Patch Darragh, who is suitably creepy as Tinker and Michael Dempsy as another of Lola’s followers who…surprise!…also turns out to be a creep.
Cam isn’t the first time cyberspace and impostors have been the subject of a horror or thriller. Just recently, we saw sexual chatrooms and cam shows in Girlhouse, mysterious doppelgangers in Imitation Girland +1, cyber stalking in Open Windows and other cyber horrors in the Unfriended movies. Still Cam has it’s own style and a strong leading lady to stand out from the pack in how it presents it’s tale and themes. It’s a fun thriller and a bit disturbing in it’s portrayal of a world that exists on the internet and how so very important it has become to some.
I know this is the Movie Madhouse, but I will review a book now and then, one that I really loved or one that pertains to the movie world…and what pertains more than a memoir by the man behind the horror classic Phantasm…Don Coscarelli.
TRUE INDIE-LIFE and DEATH in FILMMAKING by DON COSCARELLI
Don Coscarelli is one of my favorite filmmakers and his Phantasm one of my all-time favorite horror films. So of course I was very excited to read his memoir, detailing an almost forty year career as an indie filmmaker…and it didn’t disappoint. Coscarelli gives a brief account of his upbringing and then on to his first attempt to make a feature film, a drama called Jim, The World’s Greatest. He then weaves a fun and informative account of his film career spanning from the making of Kenny & Co. in 1976, to his classic Phantasm, to the harrowing production of the Beastmaster, all the way up to his recent Phantasm: Ravager. The stories of what Don and family and friends went through to get some of his flicks made, and then released, will really give you an idea of how difficult it is make a movie, especially if you don’t have big studio backing…which comes with it’s own headaches. It’s a real treat to hear the production stories of how his movies were made…or not made in some cases…and how even now getting a film going is still not easy even for a man considered a horror legend.
True Indie is a fun true life story woven by a man with a talent for overcoming adversity and for telling an entertaining, sincere and heartfelt story…the account of the final moments he shared with his star and friend Angus Scrimm will have you in tears. A tale of arrogant investors, eccentric actors, the MPAA and those darn silver spheres! A great book if you are a fan of Don Coscarelli, horror films or just independent filmmaking in general, this is a must read!